New Year’s Eve in Slovenia – How, Where and Hangover Cures!

Generally speaking, Slovenes love New Year’s Eve and really go to town when it comes to celebrating! So, if you are going to be, or are thinking about, celebrating New Year’s Eve in Slovenia, here are some ideas of how, and where, to see in the new year in style.

You won’t have to go far to find new year’s celebrations, since pretty much every village, town, and city has some kind of celebration. And even if you don’t see them, you will certainly hear them!

The biggest crowds gather in the Slovene capital, Ljubljana, where numerous events take place, the highlight being the fireworks display launched from the Ljubljana Castle hill. Find more information about New Year’s Even in Ljubljana here – https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/visitors/events/page-12848/

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There are New Year’s Eve concerts held in several of the city centre squares from 9pm onwards.

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Lake Bled is another popular place to spend New Year’s Eve. I saw in the new year there a few years back; first taking a (brisk!) walk around the lake, then settling down with a friend and a mug of mulled wine to watch the fireworks display above the lake.

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There are New Year’s Eve celebrations in all the major cities, including Maribor, Celje, Novo Mesto, Nova Gorica, Piran, Kranj, Velenje etc., as well as smaller local events.

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New Year’s Eve in Maribor, Photo: http://www.maribor-pohorje.si (Profoto studio)

A more unique way to see in the new year is to visit the mountains. Quite a few of Slovenia’s mountain huts hold house parties on New Year’s Eve. Expect hearty food alongside the wood-burner, plenty of schnapps, and obligatory singing! Of course, don’t forget that the next morning – yes, the one after the night before – you will have to hike back down!

You might find the hut half buried in snow, as I did here on the Pokljuka plateau, but that’s all part of the fun! A pair of snowshoes, as seen below, definitely aids access when conditions are like this.

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If it’s a nice sunny New Year’s Day, what better hangover cure can there be than this!

If you prefer a ‘hair of the dog’ style hangover cure, then be sure to try out one of numerous kinds of Slovenian homemade fruit schnapps, but beware, the homemade versions are often strong enough to blow your socks off!

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I have to admit to being a bit of a killjoy when it comes to New Year’s Eve. I can take it or leave it, preferring Christmas and time spent with family to loud parties and – as we all know – the world is always still the same the next day, despite all the new year’s resolutions! However, since I’ve been in Slovenia, I have tried to embrace New Year’s Eve a little more, and have tried a number of different ways of celebrating.

If you’ve been a good girl or boy, then Old Man Winter (Dedek Mraz) may visit on New Year’s Eve! I met him at Vila Podvin on New Year’s Eve 2014/2015, whilst enjoying a gourmet dinner prepared by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin. Families with young children especially enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Vila Podvin. This year the fun begins at 7pm – reservations essential.

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New Year 2015/2016 was spent at another local restaurant, Kunstelj Inn, whilst other years I have just walked from home into the heart of my hometown of Radovljica where the celebrations are focused around the historic old town centre, with live music and merriment. This year in Linhart Square, the heart of the medieval old town, there will be live music and merriment with the Gašperji Ensemble from 11pm – 2am.

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There have been a couple of times when temperatures having been well below freezing and I couldn’t face going out in the cold and the appeal of staying home in the warm won over! If you do venture out in the cold at midnight, be sure to wrap up well!

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Wherever and however you choose to celebrate, I wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and a healthy and prosperous 2017!

© Adele in Slovenia

Christmas 2016 in Slovenia – Christmas Markets, Food and Traditions

In February next year I will have been living in Slovenia for 10 years – gosh how time flies! My first Christmas here in 2007 was a bit of a culture shock as, at that time, Christmas wasn’t, or at least to me didn’t seem to be, such a big deal – no roast turkey and all the trimmings, no crackers and wearing of silly paper hats (though some might say that’s a bonus!), no shops crammed with Christmas merchandise in September and blaring Christmas jingles for months on end, and just a few low-, or at least lower-key Christmas markets.

Well, things have definitely changed and Christmas is most definitely here in a big(ger) way! With an increasing number of people choosing Slovenia as a destination for a short-break over Christmas/New Year, this blog has a run down of just some of things you can see and do.

Christmas in Ljubljana, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, to exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. It’s worth noting that many restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve, or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, Independence and Unity Day, and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although these days most of the larger ones are open, at least for a few hours in the morning. No Boxing Day Sales – hooray!

Christmas markets take place in all the major cities – the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets throughout the city, the main one being alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river. The festivities kick-off on 25th November with the official switching on of the lights at 5.15pm. There are also numerous concerts and other events taking place throughout the festive period. More here – http://bit.ly/2eBfQhk

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Christmas in Ljubljana, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

My home town of Radovljica, one of the three best-preserved historic towns in Slovenia, has a small Advent Market and also looks magical! More information here – http://tinyurl.com/zxczvsg

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The cute little Alpine Village in the ski resort of Kranjska Gora is a winter wonderland. More information here – http://tinyurl.com/jbntrpl

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Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, Maribor, switches on its Christmas lights on Friday 25th November. The Christmas programme includes a Christmas market, St. Nicholas fair, Artmar fair, city ice-rink, concerts and parties. More information here – http://bit.ly/1I8qXL0

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Festivities in Bled begin on 2nd December. A Christmas market takes place on the promenade at the south end of Lake Bled. If there’s snow, the island looks even more fairy tale-like! More information here – http://bit.ly/2eDpZZj

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Bled Island, Photo: http://www.slovenia.info

There are also Christmas markets in Celje and Portorož, as well as smaller local ones in many other towns throughout the country, though these tend to only be open for a few days rather than for the entire advent period.

Throughout Slovenia you will find a host of other festive events and activities, where you can be a spectator or join in, including live nativities, outdoor ice-rinks, parades and concerts.

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Outdoor ice-rink in Maribor – Photo: Produkcija80

The last two years, Christmas has not been ‘white’. However, if it is a white Christmas, then there are a whole host of other possibilities, such as sledging, skiing, snow-shoeing, hiking etc. My parents often spend Christmas here and we have had some memorable Christmas Days, including this one below, spent hiking on the Pokljuka Plateau.

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And Christmas isn’t Christmas (and Easter not Easter!) without home-baked potica! You can read plenty more about my potica journey here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/2016/03/03/easter-in-slovenia-my-potica-journey/

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So, if you are considering Slovenia’s for a Christmas break, then rest assured, you will find plenty to see and do. You can also be safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to pull a cracker and wear a silly hat!

© Adele in Slovenia

Summer 2016 in Radol’ca – Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus

Regular readers will know that I usually publish my blogs on Mondays. However, I decided to purposely delay this one since yesterday it was raining, again, and I couldn’t face writing, and subject you to reading, yet another blog moaning about the rain!!!

Today, thankfully, is much better and we also had 4 glorious summer days of blazing sunshine last week. So, let’s just focus on more of those to come and not on the other 24 rainy days thus far in June! Woops, there I go again…

There are lots of things to look forward to this summer in Radol’ca*. Here are just a few of the events taking place in July to whet your appetite.

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  • The Hop-On Hop Off Tourist Bus begins operating again from 1st July until 31st August. The bus runs on Tuesdays (Bled-Radovljica-Kropa) and Thursdays (Bled-Radovljica-Begunje-Brezje), as well as at weekends to Bohinj and the Pokljuka plateau. Tickets, which are valid for the whole day, cost just 5 euros for adults, children up to the age of 10 travel free. More information here (click where it says Vec o Hop-On Hop Off to see the timetable) – http://radolca.si/kaj-poceti/dogodki/hop-on-hop-off-radolca-2016/83/904/

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  • FREE guided tours of the old town centre – Tuesdays at 9am in July and August, other months at 10am. Meet at the Radovljica Tourist Information Centre at the entrance to Linhart Square.

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Radovljica SLO 2011

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I always attend this event as I love the quaint iron-forging village of Kropa, nestled snuggly into a corner of the Lipnica Valley under the Jelovica plateau, where the tradition of iron-forging is still much in evidence. You can also try some local food, visit the village museums, and have a general nose about the narrow lanes.

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* In case of any confusion, Radol’ca is  the name used in the tourism slogan ‘Radol’ca, Honestly Sweet’. The Radol’ca area comprises the main town of Radovljica, as well as the surrounding towns and villages including Begunje na Gorenjskem, Brezje, Kropa, Kamna Gorica, Lesce, Mosnje and other smaller hamlets.

© Adele in Slovenia

World Bee Day: The Anton Janša Honey Route

Much of the history of beekeeping in Slovenia can be attributed to Anton Janša (1734-1733) and still today barely a word is said about Slovenian beekeeping without his name being mentioned. Perhaps it was fate then that I moved to Slovenia, and particularly to the Gorenjska region, from where more than 150 prominent beekeepers hail, including Anton Janša, with whom I also share a birthday – 20th May – which is now (hopefully) to become World Bee Day! I live in Radovljica, home to the Museum of Apiculture and close to the village of Breznica where Anton Janša, was born.

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Slovenia is the only EU member state that has protected its indigenous bee, the Carniolan bee, which means that no other bee can be bred here. The Carniolan bee is the 2nd most widely used breed of bee in the world and originated in this region of the country.

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The initiative for a World Bee Day was started by the Slovene Beekeeping Association, who, rightly so, believe there should be a World Day in recognition of something that is of such vital importance to the world. I whole-heartedly support this movement, after all, there are World Days for pretty much everything these days, so bees more than deserve to be recognised.

To mark this, I went on my own little ‘bee adventure’, following part of the Anton Janša Honey Route, which takes in Radovljica, Bled, Vrba, and Škofja Loka.

I began by visiting Janša’s beehive in Breznica which is part of the Žirovnica Path of Cultural Heritage that connects the birth places of many notable Slovenes including Dr. France Prešeren, Matija Čop, Franc Saleški Finžgar and Janez Jalen. More information here – http://bit.ly/1T26zxe

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As with the majority of hives in Slovenia, Jansa’s features original painted beehive panels, unique to Slovenia, each of which depicts a humorous or satirical story – this one shows animals taking over the role of humans.

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I also visited the Kralov med hives in the hamlet of Selo, near Bled, where beekeeper Blaž Ambrožič oozed enthusiasm when showing and telling me about the wonders of bees.

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I thought I knew a reasonable amount about beekeeping, however, Blaž told me so many astonishing facts about beekeeping that I can but recommend that you go and find out more for yourself! After all, it seems that barely a day passes when there isn’t more astonishing evidence about the importance of bees and the benefits of honey. It really is one of the best foods of nature as well as being credited with alleviating a range of medical conditions and lately has also become the latest trend in beauty products. You can also read about my recent experience of a bee sting facial here – http://bit.ly/1Spm1o2

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The star of the show at Kralov med is undoubtedly the hive that was painstakingly transplanted from a tree trunk and transported, bees and all, to where it sits today, and where the bees are still working diligently.

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As a measure of the calm characteristics of the Carniolan bee, Blaž encouraged me to put my hand inside the hive and the bees were completely unperturbed by my presence.

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I had a chance to try some of the honey and learn about the various characteristics and properties of the different kinds of honey and propolis.

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At the time of my visit a brand new hive had just been built which will also be available for apitherapy and visitors will even be able to sleep there, all the while inhaling the intoxicating scents of the bees, which is known to have beneficial effects, particularly for those suffering from respiratory diseases.

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Can you find out more about Kralov med here – http://www.kralov-med.si/en/home/

The Anton Janša route also includes:

  •  The Carniolan queen mating station in the Završnica valley
  • The Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica, which features, amongst other exhibits, hundreds of beehive front panels including the world’s oldest – http://www.radolca.si/en/radovljica-apiculture-museum/
  • The hamlets of Combe and Bitnje in Bohinj, where the internationally renowned bee merchant Jan Strgar kept his bees and who, together with Mihael Ambrožič, was responsible for the spread in popularity of the Carniolan bee

You can also visit the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska in Lescehttp://www.cricg.si/angleski-jezik/ and follow developments regarding the World Bee Day Initiative here – https://www.facebook.com/worldbeeday/?fref=ts

So, come on, let’s unite to support World Bee Day and Save the Bees!

© Adele in Slovenia

 

 

Down Mexico Way at Krčma Lesce!

Lesce is situated midway between Radovljica and Bled and is part of the Municipality of Radovljica. It is probably most known for the 5-star Šobec camp http://www.radolca.si/en/accommodation/camps/camping-sobec/212/92/, which is hugely popular during the summer months. Lesce is an important rail junction, as it is the station closest to Bled on the direct line from Ljubljana to Jesenice, and a passing point for trains running on the single track.

Considering its modest size, Lesce has quite a wide selection of cafes and restaurants, however, you probably wouldn’t immediately think of coming here to find (possibly) the best Mexican food in Slovenia!

Lesce is home to the noteworthy Church of Mary of the Assumption – http://www.radolca.si/en/lesce-church/, with its impressive interior and bell tower.

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There is also a sports airfield – which offers panoramic flights over the Julian Alpshttp://www.radolca.si/en/adrenaline-in-the-air/, and it is home to the factory of Slovenia’s largest chocolate producer, Gorenjka. More here – http://www.radolca.si/en/lesce/

It’s fair to say that I’ve eaten at the Krčma Mexico restaurant more than a few times, my most recent visit however, just last week, was for a somewhat different reason. Let me explain!

Regular readers may recall that just a few weeks ago I appeared as one of the guest speakers at the Njam Zgodbe (Yummy Stories) bloggers’ event in Ljubljana. The other guest speaker was Isabel, a Mexican who, due to falling in love and subsequently marrying a Slovene, now lives in Ljubljana, though also returns regularly to her homeland of Mexico. Since moving here, Isabel has also starting writing a blog – The Sunny Side of This – where she publishes posts in Spanish and English, and since she has previously written about where to get great Mexican food in Slovenia, and since I was flattered that in a recent post she described meeting me as meeting ‘her blogging idol’, I invited her to come and visit Lesce and try Krčma so we could do a joint blog. And so here it is!

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We sat down with the restaurant’s owner, chatted about all things ‘Mexican’ and tried a variety of things from the menu, all of which were, as usual, delicious and plentiful. You certainly never leave Krčma hungry, even someone like me with a big appetite!

Anyone for chimichangas?

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Or how about steak in barbeque sauce with spicy rice?

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And as for the desserts, well, where should I start? Pancakes tend to feature heavily on dessert menus at many traditional Slovenian restaurants, however, I usually find them somewhat underwhelming as they are all pancake and no filling. The pancakes at Krčma, however, are far from underfilled and, though not exactly Mexican, are absolutely awesome!

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And since you can never have enough desserts, how about baked pineapple with caramel too!

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Isabel gave the food the thumbs up and since she’s a real Mexican, it must be good! But don’t just take my, or her, word for it, try it for yourself. But do book in advance, its no secret that great food can be found here, and ‘Buen apetito!’ – as they say down Mexico way!

Christmas in Slovenia; Markets, Food, Traditions and more!

Slovenia hasn’t been celebrating Christmas for that long, well not in the form that many of us know it. However, the country has certainly caught up with, and caught onto, the festive spirit and now there are Christmas-related events happening throughout the land.

So, how is Christmas celebrated in Slovenia? What is/isn’t open? What is there to do, where to go?

As in many other countries in Europe, the evening of the 24th is when most families celebrate and get together for a special meal, exchange gifts and/or attend midnight mass. If you are visiting Slovenia at that time it is worth noting that many restaurants may be closed on this evening or close earlier than usual. Shops are usually open on the 24th but close a little earlier than usual. All shops are closed on the 25th and again this is a family day, often for some recreational activities perhaps skiing, hiking or visiting relatives. The 26th is also a public holiday, ‘Independence and Unity Day’ and therefore again many shops and business will be closed although these days most of the larger ones are open, at least for a few hours in the morning.

There are Christmas markets taking place in all the major cities, the largest being in Ljubljana, where there are numerous markets. The main market is held alongside the banks of the Ljubljanica river, but there are also other markets spread across the city’s squares, with a vast range of events and entertainment taking place from now until the New Year. More information here – https://www.visitljubljana.com/en/activities/entertainment/77402/detail.html

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Festive Ljubljana (Dunja Wedam)

In Maribor, Slovenia’s 2nd biggest city, there are numerous events taking place including the Fairy City (Vilinsko mesto), a Festive Fair and a long list of concerts and other events. More information here – http://maribor-pohorje.si/festive-december-in-maribor0.aspx

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Maribor Christmas Market (photo MP produkcija)

In Celje, ‘Fairytale Celje’ (Pravljično Celje), including a Christmas market, runs from 29th Nov – 31st Dec – http://www.dezela-celjska.si/en/node/72073

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Festive Celje

Other towns with smaller Christmas markets include the Festive Winter Village in Bled – from 4.12 – 17. 1 – http://www.bled.si/en/events/2015/12/04/2264-Festive-Winter-Village

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Festive Winter Village, Bled

The Alpine Village in Kranjska Gora – from 28.11 – 3.1 – http://www.kranjska-gora.si/si/files/default/plakat%20dec.pdf

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Alpine Village, Kranjska Gora

And not forgetting the Advent Market in small, but perfectly formed, Radovljica – where I live – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/

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Advent in Radovljica (pakt media)

If you’ve never been to Radovjlica, just watch this video of a Christmas commercial shot here 2 years ago to see how magical it looks – http://klip.si/video-reklama-za-bauli-snemana-v-radovljici-4484

Those in, or heading to, the Slovene coast will also find a Christmas market in Portorož (http://bit.ly/1jhWPkH)

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Christmas Market in Portorož

There are of course many more towns that have Christmas markets and events – too many to list here – and many of these, including those listed here also have open-air ice-skating rinks.

If you are looking for a festive event with a difference, every year, weather conditions permitting, there is a live ice nativity play held in the Mlača Gorge in the village of Mojstrana. With the freezing temperatures we have had of late, this year’s event looks sure to be going ahead and the performances are scheduled to begin on Christmas Day. The entrance fee also includes a walk through the ice kingdom, a gallery of nativity scenes and the nativity performance held in the frozen waterfall. Be sure to wrap up warmly! More information can be found here – http://lednoplezanje.com/zive-jaslice-v-ledu/

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Live Ice Nativity in Mojstrana

Turning to food, no Slovene home is complete over the festive season without potica – a traditional rolled and filled cake. You will find it everywhere; in cafes, supermarkets, and in almost every Slovene’s home. Potica come in many varieties, the most popular varieties are filled with walnut or poppy seeds, but there are also other fillings including tarragon or coconut, and special editions with dual fillings, such as the one below – named ‘potica of our roots‘  prepared by one of Slovenia’s top chefs, Uroš Štefelin, from Vila Podvin.

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Potica of Our Roots

Wherever you choose to visit and/or spend Christmas in Slovenia, I hope you have a great festive season!

The Beekeeping Educational and Panoramic Path

On Thursday last week I went to the Beekeeping Education Centre of Gorenjska* (CRICG) in Lesce where an exhibition was opened about the new Beekeeping Educational and Panoramic Path in Gorje. So, of course, I then had to go and check out the path for myself, and panoramic it certainly is. Even if you are not particularly interested in beekeeping, I’d highly recommend the path, the views alone make it worth the effort, and if you are interested in beekeeping too then it’s a win-win all round!

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The circular path begins in the village of Spodnje gorje which is on the road from Bled towards Pokljuka. There is an information board about the path (in Slovene and English) and a little further on also information about the Slovenian Carniolan honey bee.

The path is marked throughout with these yellow bee symbols. Occasionally the signs are a little sparse but, as I discovered, unless there is a sign to the contrary just keep going and sooner or later there will be another sign pointing you in the right direction.

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You can choose to walk either the shorter loop (approx. 2kms) or the entire path (approx. 6kms). The path leads through the villages of Višelnica and Mevkuž, where you can either turn right for the short loop, or continue to Grabče, Krnica and Poljšica, eventually returning to the start of the path in Spodnje gorje.

Along the route you will pass numerous beehives of varying shapes and sizes. They are not always easy to spot as they are often located in private gardens so keep your eyes peeled, however, there are also some that are right beside the path, such as this beauty below.

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And there’s even a wild bee and insect hotel.

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If you get lucky, as I did, you might find a local beekeeper out tending his garden and/or bees, who will be happy to show you or tell you more. I got even more lucky that one lent me an umbrella for the brief downpour that I encountered en-route – thanks!

The village of Grabče is particularly quaint with its wooden bridge, renovated Grajski mlin (Castle Mill), former sawmill and iron-forge, and the tall wooden shrine which stands like a tower on a rock actually in the river.

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I’ve driven past these villages on the way to/from Pokljuka hundreds of times but have never taken the time to stop and walk around. Now I know what beauty lies within, I’m quite sure I won’t be in such a hurry to pass by in the future. Well, with sights like this, how could I resist!

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* The Beekeeping Education Centre in Lesce is a one-stop centre for beekeepers and beekeeping and also offers guided tours of its beehive as well as educational events etc. The centre now has a new website – http://www.cricg.si/ or you can also read more about it here – http://www.radolca.si/en/gorenjska-region-beekeeping-development-and-education-centre/

On a final note in regard to beekeeping in Slovenia, this week it was nice to read some positive news about this year’s honey harvest, as you can see in this article – http://www.sloveniatimes.com/honey-harvest-improves-to-an-average-season-this-year

© AdeleinSlovenia 2015